Republican Bates working to keep District 9A seat

Appointed delegate seeks a full, 4-year elected term

August 16, 2002|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

In the blistering heat of the Howard County Fair's opening weekend firefighters' parade, Del. Gail H. Bates sat waving at voters from her family's restored antique MG midget, while her district senator, Robert H. Kittleman, marched ahead.

With a little luck on Election Day, Bates hopes she will follow the unopposed Kittleman right back to Annapolis for her second General Assembly session.

"I don't feel super confident. I'm doing everything I know to do. I'm having a ball," said Bates, 56, a former top aide to former Howard County Executive Charles I. "Chuck" Ecker.

The Republican's attempt to convert her February appointment to the House of Delegates into a full, four-year term is the only visible drama in the new District 9A primary election Sept. 10.

There is no primary contest among Democrats, and Kittleman, 76, a five-term Republican legislator, is unopposed.

The western county's lineup of legislators changed in January when former state Sen. Christopher J. McCabe resigned to take a job in the Bush administration.

Kittleman took his place in the Senate, and Bates, who in recent years worked as an aide to Del. Donald F. Murphy, followed Kittleman to the House.

Kittleman and 15-year veteran GOP Del. Robert L. Flanagan are leading a ticket of incumbents opposed by just one outsider in the Republican primary -- Steven M. Kraemer, 28, of Ellicott City.

Kraemer missed the county fair and a candidates forum July 27. But he is back from a family vacation, he said, and is ready to become active for the campaign's last month.

Bates may have more party ties, he said, "but I'm not too concerned with that. The party may know her, seven days from Sunday, but if people don't know her, it won't matter," he said. "It's getting down to crunch time."

Bates, who ran for County Council in 1998 but lost to Allan H. Kittleman, the senator's son, said she has been waving signs at motorists daily and knocking on doors.

And she talked with voters all week at the county fair. "I'm up to seven single-finger waves," she said, joking about a few motorists who flashed an obscene gesture as they drove past.

"Gail's doing very well. She's working hard and covering all the bases," Kittleman said.

He added that he has never met Kraemer and has not seen evidence of his campaign. Kittleman has been spending most of his time in the one-third of District 9 that is in Carroll County, learning more about issues there, he said.

No opposition

Republicans like to think Democrats Walter E. Carson, 58, of Woodbine and Tony McGuffin, 49, of Ellicott City, who have no opposition in the primary, do not have a chance in the general election Nov. 5.

After all, the Democrats could not find a candidate to run for state Senate against Kittleman, and registered GOP voters outnumber Democrats in the district by about 1,500 -- the reverse of most Howard areas, where Democrats are a large majority.

Kittleman and Flanagan complained during the legislative redistricting process that Democrats were trying to squeeze all the Republicans they could into one tightly packed district, to limit their influence statewide.

To win in such a district, Democrats "would have to be very good Republicans, which they aren't, " Flanagan said. "They're very principled liberal Democrats, but it's just not the district for a liberal."

Still, McGuffin feels that "with the [political] musical chairs, I sense they [Republicans] are a little more vulnerable. "

Keeping it real

He's a realist, too, though, he said.

"I don't find it easy to change Republican minds," he said. "I'm giving it a go here."

McGuffin grew up in Clarksville and knows a lot of county farm families, he said, having gotten to know some from his work as a local folk singer.

He understands, he said, that unlike large industries forced to spend money to help preserve the environment, farmers cannot pass those costs to consumers.

"They really need some protection," he said.

As a partisan, however, he is out to attack what he calls "Newt Gingrich propaganda that has taken hold [locally] in a way that's very damaging."

That's why McGuffin attacked the Republican effort to enact a charter change to provide for repayment of the county's Rainy Day Fund after a revenue shortfall last budget year.

"I really do believe that was to make [Howard County Executive] Jim Robey look bad" for political purposes in this election year, McGuffin said.

A winning attitude

Carson, a lawyer for the Seventh-day Adventists who built a home near Lisbon in April, and his wife lived in Columbia for 18 months while their house was under construction.

He has not done much campaigning yet, he said, but won't concede that a Democrat can't win in western Howard.

"I didn't go into it with that attitude. I think I have a chance," he said.

Carson, like McGuffin, ran for Congress in 2000 but lost in the primary. This year, Carson said, he was not about to run against fellow liberal Democrat U.S. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, who replaced the conservative Roscoe G. Bartlett as the western county's congressman, so "next best is the House of Delegates."

Like many candidates, Carson is worried about how the state will raise enough money to fund the Thornton Commission's educational initiative.

He opposes, however, using cigarette tax revenues to finance vital state programs. He also opposes slot machines at racetracks as a revenue source.

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